The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, has issued a report identifying dangerous hydrofluoric acid in car wash products. The acid-containing products have caused at least 48 workers to be burned from 2001 through 2013. In one case a worker died after consuming the products.
The workers who were injured by these car wash products had eye, head and hand burns — often as a result of gloves that had holes in them or a failure to wear gloves. Seven of the injured workers had to be taken to the hospital as a result of their injuries. Three of them had third-degree burns and two of them needed skin grafts and surgery.
According to a CDC researcher who completed the above-referenced study, hydrofluoric acid is extremely toxic — even when concentrations are low, as it is in car wash products. Upon the first contact with the skin, there the pain, if any, is not very severe. As a result, workers often do not know that they have been burned and they might delay seeking the treatment they require.
In one case, a worker splashed some cleaning solution on his leg, and rather than washing it off immediately, he kept working for another 1.5 hours — event though his shoe and pants were soaked. It wasn’t until 1.5 hours later that he felt the burning sensation of the acid he was being exposed to. The man’s injuries were so severe that he was taken to a burn unit, where he received a skin graft for third-degree burns. Eventually, he qualified for permanent partial disability payments because his injuries caused him chronic numbness in one of his feet.
When a worker suffers a preventable injury on the job, which happens because he or she was not properly trained or because the employer failed to tell him or her that toxic and dangerous chemicals were being used, the worker may have the ability to seek personal injury claims. This could be in addition to workers’ compensation claims, which would also generally apply to the case of a worker injured on the job.